Driverseat: New chauffeur business hopes to curb impaired driving

Friday, November 13, 2015

There's a new way to get around Guelph that doesn't involve calling a cab, requesting an Uber X or hopping on a city bus.

The service is called Driverseat and involves a coachman (or woman) driving you and your car to where you need to go. That could be to the doctor's office, airport or house after a wild night of drinking.

"The reason why Wendy and I got into Driverseat is because it's socially responsible," said franchise co-owner Mark McDowall who, along with his wife Wendy Cotlear, launched Driverseat in Guelph Nov. 1.

"We don't want people who've been drinking or are impaired behind the wheel." Customers can request Driverseat's services by using the Driverseat app to schedule a pickup. Driverseat is a good backup plan for people who start the night out as designated drivers but then end up drinking a few too many, said McDowall. Not only do customers get home safe at the end of the night, but their cars do too. Once the service is over, a second driver, called a chaser, picks up the coachman.

McDowall and Cotlear said they've been getting a lot of interest in Driverseat's assisted transport service, which involves helping seniors who are no longer comfortable with driving.

"We take them to the mall or racetrack to see friends, and sometimes if they don't have a car we can use one of their family members' vehicles," said Cotlear.

Driverseat will also take seniors to appointments, sit with them in the waiting room, take them to fill prescriptions afterwards and finally drop them off at home.

One of the most exciting services Driverseat has to offer is its airport chauffeur, said McDowall.

Driverseat charges $100 to take customers to and from Toronto's Pearson Airport. That's about half of what competitors charge.

"When we saw that price we couldn't believe it," said McDowall, who also works in sales and grew up in Guelph. "Our prices are very competitive because there's not a lot of overhead costs." Driverseat was first launched in Kitchener in 2012 and has since expanded to more than 15 cities, including Milton, Oakville and Cambridge.

McDowall expects they'll soon be taking vehicles across town for oil changes, picking up fleet vehicles for auto dealers and providing shuttle services for weddings and golf tournaments.

Unlike Uber X or cabs, Driverseat coachmen are covered under their customers' auto insurance plans, said McDowall.

According to the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario, however, it's not that simple when money is exchanged for a service.

"It is important to know that it is the company that assumes insurance responsibility for both automobiles and all passengers in this service," said president Michael Brattman in an email to the Tribune.

"If there was an accident or a collision during this business transaction, for either vehicle (the chase car or the customer's car), it is unlikely that the customer's auto insurance policy would come into play." Brattman (along with other local insurance brokers who wish not to be named for liability reasons) acknowledged the service is very new, which leaves a lot of undecided grey area.

"The simple fact is these designated driver services are a new concept that Ontarians are embracing quickly, both as drivers and as passengers," he said.

"At this time, drivers and passengers should know that the service is too new for anyone to guess or guarantee how a claims/injury dispute would play out in court." But Driverseat can be trusted, said McDowall. All Driverseat employees must have a clean driving and criminal records, with police checks focused on the vulnerable sector (children and the elderly).

For more information, search Driverseat Guelph on Facebook or Twitter.

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